Online Teaching Chronicle Continues

June 3, 2013

I have finished the first module of my first online class. Overall it has been a very good experience and I have enjoyed it. It *has* taken a lot of time and anyone who goes into online teaching thinking it will be less time-consuming than a face-to-face class will be sadly disappointed. I probably checked the course too much in this first module – mostly because I was so eager to find out what they would say! It was like getting a little present each time the email dinged with a new post in the class. Of course sometime the “gifts” were a bit disappointing, but overall, it was good.

The students are stretching me in this class as well. Ideas that they post make me curious and have made me consider monuments that I’ve taught for YEARS in new ways. So that is really cool.

The following list of roles of an online teacher is remarkably correct. I can hear howls about it from my colleagues. “Cheerleader?,” they will growl. “Tour-guide?,” they will grumble. But while I, too, hate the notion of being tour-guide and cheerleader – this IS what I’m doing in this class, even if I despise such labels. This list is interesting because it is how you construct an online learning community. Because THAT is where learning is going to happen. It’s not “sage on the stage” – another label I despise. You are not dumping information at them. They could go read a book if that’s all a class was/is. Instead, because you’re not physically with them, you are guiding them, you are cheering them on, you are coaching them.

And then, in the end, you are learning with them. And that is really cool.

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Teaching Evaluations

June 2, 2013

I’m taking a short break from my Online Teaching Adventure Chronicle to post an article about teaching evaluations.

What, specifically, teaching evaluations are actually evaluating has always been a concern to me. This article implies that raz-ma-tazz lecturing might not actually help students retain or learn. 

But teaching *does* need to be evaluated. So how best to do that?


Online Art History Adventure: Day 2 (or is it 3?)

May 31, 2013

Painful lesson: always look at what you assign.

So I did not do that last. I assigned them to look at the official website of the Lascaux cave. Well, that is a great idea! Except I did not know that an early discoverer of Lascaux dubbed one of the images “the Unicorn Panel.” I am a Byzantinist. This is introductory art history. I’ve never had a class in prehistoric art. So I did not know about this so-called “unicorn panel.”

Until students started talking about in my online course. I thought “Unicorn? Where the hell are they seeing a unicorn?” because Cave Art is all about images and animals from their daily lives, inscribing the images on the cave wall to somehow, magically even, make them present in their reality.

So, I checked out the website and sure enough – there is the “unicorn panel.” Except it’s a cute little ibex. With TWO horns! Got that straight…

Lesson: Check it ALL OUT before you assign it. Or you get unicorns in your discussion boards.

And who wants that?


My Online Teaching Adventure Chronicle

May 29, 2013

I would first of all like to apologize for not posting very often to this blog in the past year. I really don’t have an excuse except to say: Middle States. When I was not teaching, advising, scheduling, I was mired in All That. I have no idea if anyone even follows this lame-o blog anymore, but I am committing myself to write some of my adventures in online teaching to chronicle how that goes.

I am teaching my first online course this summer. It just launched yesterday – May 28. I have about 10 students in it, so it is hardly a MOOC!

The first thing I can say is that teaching online is just a whole different experience than what I’ve heard some people say. It’s not just plopping content online and expecting people to read or watch it. Where is the learning there?

What I know about teaching online so far has come from Steve Kerby’s course about teaching online – best practices. I took that class in March and April and learned a TON. Mostly I learned about how online teaching has to be based on a learning community. This is not that hard for me to understand as I have seen the power of Reacting to the Past – and how that community that is built in playing the games of Reacting create learning. I’m not brave enough yet to try a Reacting game online, but I do want to try that.

During the online class, I stumbled across the Khan Academy’s “Smarthistory” site – which is essentially a web-based textbook for art history with videos about works of art that were recorded ON SITE in the various museums where the works of art are housed, and links to other web resources and text within the site itself. It is all arranged by a timeline of Art History. The site is **fantastic** and is the core of my classroom for this course.

Then, students comment, post, describe, watch, read, listen, write — as part of the class. I have had some very good posts already on Day 2. There have been a few hiccups – one student said she saw a unicorn on the wall of Lascaux. Uh, no. And I’m not sure what image she was looking at so that is hard to discuss. But I’m thinking about how to answer that little problem. So far I’ve asked the students themselves to think about why that might not be right (they are listing everything they see in the cave paintings before suggesting what they mean and I’m hoping the “unicorn” stands out to someone as the UNREAL thing in a list of all real things – horses, lions, bears – oh my).

So. I will continue to chronicle. And if you are still hooked up for updates to this CFE Blog, you’ll get them, too. And if I figure out how to link this to Twitter (I think I got FB figured out), you’ll see it there, too.


Teaching Naked: Jose Bowen

May 2, 2013

The Teaching Naked Guru, Jose Bowen, has recorded at Ted=talk about teaching. Watch it here.

What do you think?

Come on. Take a break from grading and watch it.

I met him at a conference in January and am intrigued by his whole idea. It’s the face to face experience that makes a liberal arts college worth its weight. So how can we make that experience richer for our students? He’s got great ideas.

What are yours?


Critical Thinking Anyone?

March 26, 2013

I was going through some papers and I found this little strip of paper with this written on it – from someone: http://www.criticalthinking.org Wow. Great stuff on there for teaching critical thinking such as this link about teaching students about close reading.

Thanks whoever gave that little slip of paper to me!


F2F versus MOOCs

February 23, 2013

While at the AACU (Association of American Colleges and Universities) annual meeting, I met one of the plenary speakers, José Antonio Bowen, Dean of the Meadows School of the Arts, and Algur H. Meadows Chair and Professor of Music, at Southern Methodist University. He has a blog based on his book Teaching Naked (and I had an earlier blog post about that book and his ideas a few semesters ago).

He now has a blog, which I follow, and recently he had this post on MOOCS versus the face-to-face classroom, which he argues needs to be transformed into the “Massively Better Classroom.”

I agree with much of his thinking. College is expensive. A college like McDaniel is really expensive. Online courses are not going away and they do educate. And are a lot cheaper. So how to we explain why the face-to-face liberal arts model is “better.” We can’t just say “because it is” (well, we can but if a student used that argument in a class, would we say that was a persuasive argument?).

I agree that we need to show that the face to face experience is a Massively Better Classroom. We need to transform the classroom to be a place where students DO things in their learning, where they engage in the material. Worried that they don’t read the assignment for class? Bring in a small amount of text and make them grapple with it and THEN discuss it. Then send them back to do a longer reading.

And of course you know I am going to give another plug for Reacting to the Past – which is still the most engaging classroom I have managed to create – with students reading, arguing, speaking, writing and researching. You can’t beat it. You can’t do it for every class, and I’m not advocating that. But it can build significant engagement in your classes.

What are you planning to do to develop a Massively Better Classroom?